Why a Great Deal Can’t Go It Alone

Everybody loves a great deal. Just cast your mind back a few months to Black Friday–the chaos speaks for itself. The love of exclusive, only-while-supplies-last deals has led to all kinds of mayhem, and this flurry over killer deals is no longer reserved for in-store moments.

Online group buying sites, such as LivingSocial, Woot!, and, yes, Groupon have stormed into the e-commerce world and firmly planted themselves.

But is paying less the only thing consumers care about? Will group buying and the steep discounts it promises render content merchandising irrelevant? Au contraire, mon frère. These daily deal coupon sites and other less well-known group buying sites such as Dell Swarm are proving how important good product page content is to online sales.

Dell Swarm

The New Concept with a Little Way to Go

Dell Swarm is a fantastic idea from Dell. Consumers request deals on products they want; at this point, items are mostly pricey electronics like laptops. Once enough people have signed up for a specific product, a Swarm begins. Some Swarms have sold out in minutes. Dell Swarm started in Singapore and has since extended its reach to Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Before Dell Swarm expands to more countries, though, the fledgling site needs to develop the idea by improving its product pages, in my humble opinion. Or by creating product pages, for that matter. Based on the following screenshot I took from the website, would you be eager to purchase this Dell Alienware M11xR3?

Dell Swarm product page example

An informal survey that included three participants in my office revealed 100 percent of consumers surveyed would not purchase this product without further information. Neither would anyone be tempted to purchase this product, if we can call it that.

Consumers who are interested and in the know could be driven to the site after discovering a product elsewhere. Or, they could leave the Dell Swarm page to research further and return for a great deal, but how does Dell know the right information is out there? Here’s what I found when I searched Dell’s site:

Alienware Product Page Example

That’s a lot of useful information. (Who doesn’t want to intimidate their friends and obliterate their enemies with brutish power?) But there’s a small problem: the product page covers several laptop options within the same line. In the end, I have no clue what I would actually get if I requested a Swarm for the Dell Alienware M11xR3.

The original price on the Dell Swarm doesn’t match the original price listed here, so it must have a special hard drive or another alternative configuration. I don’t really know. And without really knowing, I could never jump into a Swarm. In fact, I assumed this product was a laptop, but didn’t know for sure based on the product’s Swarm page. The conclusion is that even the discount-sporting Swarm page must have pictures and content.

All the products listed on the Swarm website as potential candidates link to Dell’s product page for the item, but on Dell’s website the items are mostly listed as unavailable, with “similar or better” items appearing below. Similar is not good enough–consumers don’t want an approximation of what they would be purchasing for hundreds of dollars.

Do I sound like a parrot with a one-word vocabulary? This is the same thing I said about F-commerce(I know what you’re thinking: C’mon, Elizabeth, get a new line.) In my defense, I’m trying to be consistent, not boring. This is what I believe: successful content merchandising is the lifeblood of any new–or old–online commerce idea. It doesn’t have to be the sole factor, but hasn’t everyone bought from a shady site, regretted a purchase, or bought the wrong size? Consumers want to know whether it’s a crocodile or an alligator.

Doesn’t it make sense to merchandise your products where your products are found? The alternative is to ask consumers to do additional research in shady locations that might contain someone else’s “Buy” button. And who can guarantee they won’t stumble across a friend’s post of dancing kittens or a different brand of the same product and abandon the purchase altogether? Will the right information even be out there? For a site that asks users to make a quick decision, it is important that it offer the consumer enough information for them to choose to buy. And if consumers are tweeting and sharing the product through their networks to publicize and encourage buying, it is also imperative that consumers who know nothing of the service have their content curiosities abated instantly.

The Idea That’s Arrived

There are many group buying deal sites that have this content thing under control, with price and information in a perfect blend. MyHabit, Gilt Groupe, Zulily, Fab.com, Steep and Cheap, and a host of others are successful not only for their deals and curated collections, but also because of their superb content. Let’s take a quick glance at one of the harder things to shop for online (or in stores, for that matter): women’s jeans.

MyHabit product page example

After viewing this product page, I can’t think of a single question that would send me to Google for further research. I know what these jeans are made of and where they’re made. I know how to wash them. I even have a reasonable guess about which size would be best for me, based partly on the size chart and mostly on the model’s measurements. All that’s left for me to determine is if these are the jeans that will propel me to rock-star status.

Don’t get me wrong, many of these deals sites are successful for more than their stellar content merchandising and discounted prices. Group buying sites are all the rage for a host of reasons, including exclusivity and timed checkout. Price is a huge part of this, although the deep discounts are generally an illusion for group buying daily deal sites. But price merchandising alone will not suffice, as Dell Swarm shows. An online merchandising strategy of any kind must also include content merchandising.

Content Merchandising: Foundation for Success

There are the examples of Groupon, LivingSocial, and many more daily deal sites that built their house on content. The point is, a site can have a really great deal, but it still needs information. Those jeans may be deeply discounted, but that’s still $100 I have to part with if I want them to help me achieve my dreams of stardom. Luckily, MyHabit has given me enough information to feel comfortable clicking the “Add to Cart” button.

In the information age, people are adept at doing their own research and expect all the facts to be available (even back in 2002, as Pew reported). The need for content merchandising is not just to quell the fears of the nervous breed of online buyers. All Internet users expect it.

At present, Dell Swarm belongs to a mysterious category of online product selling without even the slightest pretense of content merchandising. But while the concept may be suffering from lack of content and lack of consistency, it is a great idea. Dell Swarm is posed to set a new standard in group buying.

The Takeaway

Eventually, group buying will become a more integral part of the online retail experience. Good content will help the concept gain widespread traction.

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